Since India’s 3-1 ODI series victory in England in 2014, as many as 12 players have been given debuts. Four of them --- Kedar Jadhav, Manish Pandey, Jasprit Bumrah and Hardik Pandya --- are playing in this series.
With an eye on next year’s Champions Trophy in England, India are eager to assess them. And this series, where some of the seniors have been rested, and the three one-dayers against England in January, will go a long way in doing just that.
Thankfully for captain MS Dhoni, all of them have shown the potential to evolve into players who matter in the long run. Most surprising has been Jadhav’s rise. Starting out as a middle-order batsman for Maharashtra, Jadhav has graduated to being a wicket-keeper and is now an off-spin bowler with the knack of breaking partnerships.
But for Dhoni’s ability to unearth hidden talent, Jadhav may have never gotten the chance to display his versatility. “The surprise package has been Kedar. He has always given us wickets in the middle overs, and that’s when you can restrict the opposition,” Dhoni had said after the Mohali ODI where Jadhav finished with 3/29.
With Manish Pandey, India have another clean-hitting batsman. Apart from his unbeaten 28 in Mohali, Pandey hasn’t done much this series. But a match-winning 104 not out against Australia early this year followed by a decent run on the A tour of Australia keeps him in the mix for the future. One good score in this series and Dhoni knows it will be difficult to keep Pandey out of the team when the seniors return.
Most impressive though have been Bumrah and Pandya. Both IPL products, they have the knack of playing according to the situation without losing their cool. In Bumrah, India have found a death-overs specialist who keeps aiming for the blockhole. His fielding needs to improve a bit but once that happens, Bumrah will be a long-term prospect. With Pandya, athleticism isn’t an issue. And the way he almost won India the Delhi ODI, Pandya has shown he could grow into a good all-rounder, something Dhoni has been on the lookout for some time now.
With more emphasis on Test cricket this season, one-day cricket has taken a backseat. Skills acquired in IPL will come in handy but ODIs require players to strike a balance between aggression and restraint. If Dhoni manages to find a few who fit the bill in the next five ODIs, he would be assured of a bigger pool of players to choose for the Champions Trophy.